A disgruntled dining punter has taken issue with the billboard promotion of Metro magazine's Best Restaurants Awards, sparking industry support.
Aucklander Kirk MacGibbon has laid a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority, alleging the billboard, seen at prominent spots around the city, is "offensive, misleading and deceptive".
The imagery and wording — a set of kitchen measuring spoons and the words 'Who measures up?' — that moved MacGibbon to take action.
The billboard question refers to Metro's annual Top 50 Restaurants list — regarded as a go-to by the wider dining public. But MacGibbon said it created the impression the restaurants that did not make the cut "are somehow not measuring up to an ambiguous, undefined, completely unscientific standard".
Calling for more transparency in the judging process, MacGibbon wrote: "it certainly exploits the consumer's lack of experience and knowledge as to what Metro claims constitutes a Top 50 restaurant".
There was no way of knowing how Metro selected the pool of restaurants from which it then chose the Top 50, he added.
His words have the support of some restaurateurs.
Among them is Dominic Parat, who has owned more than 12 restaurants in his 40-year hospitality history. His Ponsonby restaurant Mekong Baby did not make the list.
Questioning the judging criteria, he said: "I know for a fact they [Metro judges] haven't been here. I've been told we weren't in it from the start."
Awards in general were great for the industry, Parat said. "But this whole award is misleading the public."
Metro's message suggested the judges had been to every restaurant in Auckland, he added.
"How do they draw up the original list?"
He invited Metro editor Susannah Walker to reveal all the receipts of restaurants judged.
Echoing his thoughts was Russell Gray, co-owner and director of Good Group Hospitality, which owns White & Wong's, Botswana Butchery and Harbourside. None of those made the list either.
"Competition is great, and awards are great — but it's got to be more transparent so it can act as a motivational tool, not a demotivational tool," Gray said.
There was a certain irony in the announcement of the awards, he added.
"Botswana Butchery in Auckland made it onto the list in 2012, and we didn't deserve it then; we'd just opened."
The group's focus had now shifted to Cuisine magazine's Good Food Awards, which Gray said were "more credible".
MacGibbon, a writer, has previously worked as a consultant for Parat. He said on this occasion he took action of his own accord because he felt so strongly about the issue.
"I certainly have not been paid by anyone to lodge the complaint."
Metro magazine said last night that it had not heard from the Advertising Standards Authority about a complaint and so could not comment.
• Geraldine Johns has previously been on the 'Metro' Best Restaurants judging panel.